Incredible Hebrew Book/Mss Collection on Sale at Sotheby’s

Anybody looking to beef up their library? What’s being described as “the finest private library of Hebrew books and manuscripts in the world,” comprised of 13,000 items, is going on sale and expected–even in this economy–to fetch something like $40 million. Most of it was assembled by one man, a diamond merchant named Jack V. Lunzer.

The NYT lists some of the goodies in the package:

…a Hebrew Bible handwritten in England in 1189 — the only dated Hebrew text from England before King Edward I expelled the Jews in 1290. In 1190, the Jewish community of York was massacred and its property, including many books and manuscripts, was looted and sold abroad, where this volume was discovered.

There is also an exquisitely preserved edition of the Babylonian Talmud (1519-23) made by the Christian printer Daniel Bomberg in Venice, an edition created with the advice of a panel of scholars that codified many aspects of how the Talmud is displayed and printed. This set made its way into the collection of Westminster Abbey, where Mr. Lunzer saw it, covered with dust, perhaps untouched for centuries. He ultimately acquired it in a trade, offering a 900-year-old copy of the Abbey’s original Charter.

There is also a 12th-century scroll of the Hebrew Pentateuch that came from the Samaritans, a Jewish sect that still exists in Nablus on the West Bank, their ancient Hebrew script resembling inscriptions on archaeological finds rather than the letters that came to define mainstream Hebrew.

And there are manuscripts of almost voluptuous variety: a 19th-century copy of “A Thousand and One Nights” from Calcutta, its Arabic spelled out in Hebrew script; the first scientific work printed in Portugal in 1496 by Abraham Zacuto, a Jewish astrologer and mathematician; an early-20th-century manuscript from Pakistan with Hebrew and Marathi on facing pages — a guide for ritual slaughterers.

We are told that the first book ever printed in Turkey is here, a 1493 copy of Jacob ben Asher’s code of Jewish law, “Arba’ah Turim.” So too, the exhibition says, is the first book ever printed in Africa — a Hebrew book about prayer from 1516 Fez. Testifying to the migrations is a polyglot Pentateuch (1547), from Constantinople, its Spanish and Greek translations written using Hebrew script.


Full story here.

Filed under History, Literature, Torah

2 Responses to “Incredible Hebrew Book/Mss Collection on Sale at Sotheby’s”

  1. [...] (Hat tip, Jewschool) [...]

    Mixed Multitudes - My Jewish Learning: Exploring Judaism & Jewish Life » Blog Archive » Stop the Presses! Jewish Book and Manuscript Auction · February 12th, 2009 at 3:27 pm
  2. No doubt the seller is one of Madoff’s victims.

    Cara · February 13th, 2009 at 8:36 pm

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